I’ve flown more than a million miles on hundreds of flights, and I’m constantly offering exclusive tips on getting the cheapest fares, the best routes and upgrades to business. While there are dozens of great hacks, there’s one overlooked trick worth applying, no matter where you fly, and it’s just as important as choosing the right seat, buying your ticket at the right time and knowing how to upgrade: It’s booking a seat on a new plane vs old plane, and you will greatly benefit for a better flight experience.
That’s right. The most overlooked hack in improving your flight is booking a seat on a newer plane over an older plane. In fact, choosing the right *plane* can make all the difference on your next flight, because not all planes are created equal. People don’t pay attention to the plane as much as the seat, but specific planes will automatically give you better seats.
Here are two ways you’ll benefit by booking a seat on a newer plane vs an older plane.
The disadvantage of an old plane
Some airlines have really old planes, which is why you’ll often see headline news when an airline retrofits an old plane… it’s a big deal. Some old planes will fly to your destination on the same routes as newer planes (even with the same airline!), and typically the same airfare.
The perks of flying a newer plane are significant. When you fly a newer plane, you get less engine noise, seats are often bigger and more padded, amenities are better, seat-back entertainment is bigger and you fly more comfortably. Think about buying a new car versus a used car. In a new car, the technology is advanced, the engine purrs like a cat and all the modern comforts have been added, like massage-in-seat features and Bluetooth connectivity. If you buy an old car, technology could be outdated, the engine is a lot more worn and it definitely doesn’t have that amazing new car smell.
And yes, this is true for business class too.
Take, for example, this flight from JFK to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines.
There are three flights in a day, and each is on a different aircraft. For comparison purposes, I’ll just use the second and third one since the flying times are closer.
Flight TK 2 at 7:05 pm is on a Boeing 777. These 777 planes are insanely old, and Turkish Airlines have not modernized them. They are so old, that business class seats come in a 2-3-2 configuration, which means there is a middle seat in the center aisle… on a business class flight! The standard these days is direct aisle access for business class (meaning 1-2-1 configuration).
I took the Boeing 777 business class flight a few months back, and while the service is great, and you receive top amenities and food, the seats are outdated and not as big as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, a newer plane. Boeing 777 doesn’t even compete with it. Boeing 787-900 has bigger windows, seats are in a 1-2-1, there’s 44 inches legroom (pitch) and 18-inch personal screens.
Also, an added bonus, TK 12 on a 787 has a better departure time at 12:10 AM. You always want to take a later flight when flying west toward Asia to balance your circadian rhythm and help beat jet lag.
Let’s look at a national flight. Randomly I chose NYC to Miami on American Airlines, which operates almost a dozen daily flights on several different aircraft. Here are three flights going out on the same day around the same time.
The first flight is the A321, which is quite new. The plane has 31” seat pitch, 18” seat width and seatback entertainment. It carries 187 passengers. There are 3 bathrooms in coach; 1 in first.
The second is the Boeing 757. The plane has 31″ seat pitch, 17” seat width and no seatback entertainment (even business class). It carries 188 seats. There are 3 bathrooms in coach; 1 in first.
The third flight is the Boeing 737-800. The plane has 30” seat pitch, 16-17.9 seat width and no seatback entertainment. It carries 160 passengers. There are 2 bathrooms in coach; 1 in first.
Clearly, the A321 has more leg room, seatback entertainment and more bathrooms for the same price of the other two. These are some things you might want to consider.
All three flights are the same price, but you get a little more if you choose the A321.
Smaller plane vs bigger plane
I’ve discussed this before, but a smaller plane will allow you to board your flight significantly faster, often get you to a better terminal at your arriving airport and offer better love and attention from flight attendants since there’s less passengers to worry about.
Here’s the great example.
From New York City, there are dozens of daily flights from LaGuardia (LGA) to Atlanta (ATL), and they’re all about the A321, which holds 192 passengers.
However, if you fly American Airlines, which only has 5 daily direct routes out of Laguardia, you’ll be on a smaller plane, including an Embraer RJ-190, which only has 99 seats.
If you do the math, you’ll board the plane faster on the American flight because you won’t have to wait for an extra 100 people to board before you, which could take up to 20 more minutes.
Even though I’m a huge fan of Delta, I will only fly American to Atlanta. Not only is the boarding process so much smoother and simpler on a smaller plane, but the plane lands at Terminal E. As you know, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport is massive, but Terminal E is the smallest terminal. You avoid crowds big time, and you don’t have to schlep or board the train to get to baggage carousel.
See how it makes such a difference to take the American flight over the Delta flight?
How do you determine which plane to take?
Once you click that link, it will offer more information for your flight, including the plane.
If you really want to fly the best plane for your route, it takes a little time to get to know the fleet for your favorite airline, know which ones are outdated and more up to date, and determine what matters to you most when you fly (having seatback entertainment vs smaller seat, for instance).
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